An open letter to President Biden


US president Joseph Biden - Reuterspic

MR President, when you were contesting the US presidency last year, many Malaysians hoped for your political triumph because that would end the shame your predecessor had brought to the presidency. Your victory gave hope that America was at the gateway of justice. In the aftermath of your election, some of your words and actions did indeed reflect your decency and humanity.

But your imbalanced reaction and untruthful depiction of the ongoing Israeli-Hamas conflict demeans you and your nation. You spoke selectively of aggression by Hamas of firing (home-made rockets with a range of 25 miles) into Israel and you asserted Israel’s right of self-defence.

But you conveniently forgot (and I am relying on the New York Times) that 27 days before Hamas fired its first rocket on May 10, Israeli police raided the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem and cut off the cables to the mosque’s loud speakers. That was the first day of Ramadan.

Closure of the Damascus gate to the Old City of Jerusalem followed suit. On April 21, right wing Jewish mobs attacked many Arab homes. On May 7, the last Friday of Ramadan, Israeli police again raided the Al-Aqsa mosque and used tear gas, stun grenades and rubber-tipped bullets to hurt and humiliate the congregation.

On May 10, three days before Aidilfitri, Hamas’ military wing called on Israel to lift the siege on Al-Aqsa. As expected, Israel ignored the call. Instead, it wounded 305 Palestinians at the mosque.

To make matters worse, right wing Zionist settlers, backed by the Israeli judiciary and apartheid laws, were forcing the eviction of several Arab families from Sheikh Jarrah, a Palestinian neighbourhood in East Jerusalem.

It is in this background of atrocities and provocations that Hamas took the illegal action of firing a salvo of rockets into Israel. Hamas was reacting to a series of vicious, humiliating actions by the caretaker Prime Minister of Israel who is facing corruption charges and a possible collapse of his caretaker government. Soaking the desert sands with the blood of a few thousand Palestinians may boost his political standing with the Zionist factions of Israel.

Surely, President Biden is not unmindful of this motivation.

Mr President, looking back at history, what right did European Christians, who for centuries had brutalised the Jews and tried to exterminate them, have of gifting Palestinian land to the Zionists and that, too, in such an unequal way that 32% of the Jewish population was gifted 56% of Palestine and 68% of Palestinian residents were allocated 42% of the land. Understandably, the Arabs rejected the partition plan.

Zionist forces then attacked major Palestinian cities and destroyed some 530 villages. Approximately 13,000 Palestinians were killed in 1948, and more than 750,000 expelled from their homes to become refugees.

Today, the refugees and their descendants number more than seven million. Many still languish

in refugee camps in neighbouring Arab countries, waiting to return to their homeland.

Due to Western and especially American support, Israel today is in unlawful occupation of the whole of Palestine. It annexed East Jerusalem in 1980. The most brutal subjugation is in Gaza where the 1.5 million Palestinians had voted the right wing Hamas to power in local elections. In retaliation, Israel withholds from the elected Hamas government all taxes collected from the people.

Israeli ground troops and tanks occupy all strategic sites. All borders are sealed. All Palestinian land, air and water remain under Israeli control. Israeli-controlled highways crisscross “Palestinian lands”.

For all practical purposes, the inhabitants of Gaza in particular, and Palestine in general, remain trapped in a massive jail.

In addition, there is a genocidal programme of economic strangulation of a whole people. An economic blockade prevents food, medicine and other basic necessities of life from reaching the hungry and angry inhabitants of this occupied land. Orchards are burnt, houses are demolished in the middle of the night. Water is contaminated. There are barbaric restrictions at checkpoints that hinder the Palestinians from going to work, harvesting farms, sending the sick and pregnant to hospital and children to school.

Apartheid walls surround the people. Fifty percent of the youth are unemployed. What choice do they have other than to live on their knees or die on their feet? Israel continues to expropriate Palestinian lands, demolish Palestinian homes, create Jewish-only settlements on confiscated property, and resort to targeted killings of Arab activists. Palestine has been converted into a purgatory.

And yet, Mr President, your great nation gives unconditional financial, diplomatic and military support to this genocidal and apartheid nation.

To many American leaders, no law or ideal is so worthy that it cannot be sacrificed to prop up Israel. Your nation hinders any international scrutiny of Israel’s atrocities. It has vetoed 47 or so UN Security Council Resolutions against Israel.

In 2001, a near unanimous 14-1 Resolution to station a UN Peacekeeping Force in Palestine was shot down by Washington. To the US, Palestinians have no right to international protection if that hinders Israel.

In its conquests and annexations over the last 73 years, Israel has perpetrated many pogroms and committed many flagrant violations. The massacres at Deir Yassin, Sabra, Shatilla, Rafah, Jennin, Gaza and Beit Hanoun easily come to mind. In 1973, Libyan Airlines Flight 114 was blown up in the sky by Israel.

Some years later, an Iranian airline was likewise shot down, killing hundreds of innocent passengers. In 1981, the Iraqi nuclear reactor was bombed. In 1967, the US ship SS Liberty was sunk. Lebanon and Syria have been invaded repeatedly.

Mr President, do you remember the young American girl, Rachel Corrie, who stood in protest between a Palestinian home and an Israeli bulldozer about to demolish it? The bulldozer did not stop. Rachel was crushed to death. This act of inhumanity symbolises what Israel is or has become.

Yet your military actively involves itself in every war that Israel has waged. You supply the latest lethal weapons, fly sorties to replenish petrol, provide intelligence and give unconditional diplomatic support. The US supplies to Israel US$7mil (RM28.8mil) per day to sustain its predatory policies. You keep your taxpayers in the dark about how Israel uses this American aid.

It is no exaggeration to say that the US is complicit in Israel’s ethnic cleansing, war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Privately, you must be aware that Israel has become a Frankenstein, which America does not know how to control. But you are wary of the power of the Jewish lobby, the Christian right, the financial dependence of many Congressmen on Jewish supporters, the Jewish stranglehold over the media and banks, and how an independent stand may affect your re-election.

Please heed alternative voices, which are many and growing. Among them, former President Jimmy Carter, Professors Noam Chomsky, Fred Boyle and Richard Falk, and groups like J. Street, which are challenging the all-powerful Israeli lobby AIPAC. Build alternative coalitions. Turn to your people. Take a leaf from President Eisenhower’s book. Tell your people how much money they dole out to Israel and how Israel spends it.

Tell them also what they do not know – that the Arabs at the Beirut Summit of 2002 and Riyadh Summit of 2007 accept Israel’s right to exist in secure pre-1967 borders. It is the present Israeli leadership that refuses to recognise the two-state solution, refuses to budge on East Jerusalem and refuses to stop building settlements on seized Arab property.

Tell your people also that nearly all the international organisations that matter, from the Red Cross to Amnesty International, Human Rights Council, the ICJ and the UN Human Rights Commissioner, have found Israel guilty of many wrongs.

Above all, Mr President, listen to your conscience. May God be with you.

The writer is holder of the Tunku Abdul Rahman Chair at UM, and the Tun Hussein Onn Chair at ISIS Malaysia. The views expressed here are his own.

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